When it comes to development and environmental law, you may think of a sky scraper being built, of enormous construction cranes dotting the skyline, or of protesters chaining themselves to trees.

In other words, you may think these things to be fairly irrelevant to your everyday life and unlikely to impact you.

The reality, however, is very different.

Development law can affect all of us in some way, for example:

  • A neighbour built a substandard retaining wall along your common fence line without permission.
  • Your local council is changing the planning zones in your street, which will devalue your property.
  • You need to cut down a tree in your back yard which has become dangerous, but the local council refuses to give approval.
  • Signage for your business.
  • Building a new home or renovations to your existing home.
  • Whether you can use your home as a business premises.

Similarly, environmental law can impact our everyday lives, for example:

  • Pollution makes it difficult to breathe and causes asthma attacks.
  • Your land was previously a petrol station and was not properly decontaminated before your home was built.
  • You can’t swim at your local beach because raw sewerage was accidentally discharged into the ocean.

Development law

Development legislation is complex and comprehensive. It covers all forms of “development” which is a very broad term and includes:

  • Building work.
  • A change in the use of the land.
  • Painting the outside of a building.
  • Some earthworks.

Where there is a proposed development, a development application must be submitted to the local council (or the Development Assessment Commission). There are three categories of development.

Complying development has a low impact on the surrounding area and planning approval is usually automatically given. Non-complying development is for land use that is not usually part of a particular area, for example a factory built in a residential area. These developments are not usually approved unless there are special circumstances. Merit development is a development that must be considered on its merit, having regard to the planning requirements of the area.

Environmental law

There are many pieces of environmental legislation in South Australia, as well as codes that govern specific environmental issues, for example marine and inland waters such as the Murray River.

Environmental issues can arise in many ways, including mining, noise pollution, water pollution, air pollution, waste disposal, site contamination, nature conservation and national heritage protection. At a grass-roots level, environmental law deals with how activities affect an individual. Or it can be part of the bigger picture, for example playing a part in government policy and monitoring the activities of other countries.

How can a lawyer help?

In both areas of law, the legislation is complex and extensive. Our development and environmental lawyers are experienced in sifting through the complexity to work out the best approach for their clients.

Lawyers may be used for any development law issue, but are typically engaged when the development is for a house, or when there is a question about whether a development complies with local requirements and zoning.

In environmental matters, our lawyers can help with issues concerning commercial or residential environmental issues, compliance with any South Australian environment protection policies, legislation or codes.

If you have an issue about how a development (or development application) affects you, or an environmental concern, contact us to arrange a free, no obligation consultation. Because the sooner you act, often the better off you’ll be.

When you choose a lawyer you need to be absolutely sure that not only do they have the knowledge and skills you require but also that they will provide the level of service you expect.